Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer of Rebuilding

I have to say I've really enjoyed this summer of rebuilding.  I miss my running buddies, but I've had to take some time to do my own thing.  I've really focused on strength training and running short runs with better form.  I've had many chiropractic adjustments, sports massage, and spent more time in the local YMCA and my home gym than I have in years.

I had what I thought was a setback two weeks ago.  I attempted a 5-mile road run with my husband.  My hip hurt nearly the whole run.  It was hot and humid.  I couldn't catch my breath.  I had no strength on hills.  At 3, I started run-walking.  At 4.25, I gave up and walked back home, feeling very defeated.  I was also embarrassed that I couldn't keep up with him.

The next day, my hip felt ok, so at 6 p.m., when it was slightly cooler, I headed out for a second try.  I had a WONDERFUL 5-mile trail run.  I walked some of the hills, but it was the first time I felt like myself again-- pushing, climbing, drenched in sweat and accomplishment at the end.   I celebrated with a trip to Academy Sports and a new running hat.

Since that confidence-building run, I've had some pretty good runs.  My still-healing hip prefers trails to roads.  Four road miles is the maximum I've run comfortably.  Last Saturday, my husband (aka my summer running buddy) and I ran a very challenging 6-mile loop at a trail near Nashville.  It was TOUGH, but we had a good time.  I felt good the next day.  During runs, I am aware of my hip less and less.  It does ache/burn mildly on hills.

Those 5 and 6 mile trail races were in preparation for this Sunday's Bowie Park 6-mile race, my first race post-injury and first in about two months.  I love exploring new trails, and this one is about 1 hour, 15 minutes away.  I hope to run it strong.

 I am slowly rebuilding endurance, acclimating to the heat, and getting back to my normal pace. This week was a good week of training.  I ran a 2.5 miler, 4 miles with 4 X 1/4 mile intervals, and 3.1 miles alternating 1/2 mile easy, 1/2 mile moderate.  I also crosstrained for one hour and strength trained.  This balance of running and crosstraining/strength training feels right.

I am going to focus on building up my base in the upcoming weeks.  I've found a great Glute Camp program on one of the machines at the Y--the arc trainer, which is my favorite.   I plan to start taking one spin class per week as well.   I'll probably try some 55-minute strength training classes as well.

I don't have an official training plan, but my next long race is a half marathon on October 10.  I'll be ready!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Learning to Run---the RIGHT Way

I have learned so much since my last post.  In the first few weeks after the marathon, my legs were sore and very tired.  I know that running 26.2 miles (even with quite a bit of walking in those later miles) leaves microtears in my muscles.  The third week after the race, I began to run short, fast distances and raced a small 5K.  I ran 29:30, which is slower than many of my 5K tempo training runs over the last few years.  But it was hot, and I was only three weeks post marathon.  I still placed 3rd in my age group!

Here is a pic of me early in mile 1 taken from my parents' front porch (this is my hometown 5K-I'm in the blue shorts and white hat): 


In recent pics, and especially in the marathon pics, I see that I have a bigger-than-usual posterior pelvic tilt.  My hips scoop forward when I run.  Several things contribute to posterior pelvic tilt, including shortened hip flexors, inefficient gait, overstriding, and incorrect running posture.  My hips had never bothered me though.  I was doing a series of exercises called Myrtl at least once a week throughout the marathon training period.  I thought they were strong. My hip did ache a bit in the later miles of the marathon, though not in the weeks post-marathon or during this 5K. The week following this race, I continued with short, fast runs to try to whittle some time off my my next 5K.

However, on Saturday, May 16, I ran 10 miles, with fast one-mile intervals the last 6.  It was a tough run one month post-marathon.  That evening I noticed my right hip was sore.  It continued to hurt the next day and the following week.  I kept expecting it to get better, but it remained sore as I ran through it.  Then it intensified.  Finally, I took 7 days off running.  I was filled with hope on my first run back, but one-mile in, every step had begun to hurt.  I walked back home, defeated. 

This pattern continued for a month.  Self-treatments included foam rolling, rolling around on a tennis ball, stretching, hip-strengthening exercises, glute strengthening exercises, and periods of several rest days from running.  It never got better.  I figured it was either a hip flexor strain, hip flexor tear, or hip stress fracture.  I even worried about bone cancer.  I was in a dark place.  

Finally, I made appointments with BOTH a local chiropractor and a my orthopedic doctor.  The chiro had an opening on Monday, so I saw him first.  He found several issues, including uneven hips (the painful one tilts back farther), some joints with limited mobility, and form issues. Diagnosis:  hip flexor strain.   He adjusted several parts of me, and I left with 70% less pain than I arrived with!  He also gave me some information I already knew about good form--- increase foot turnover with short, quick steps, run with a neutral pelvis, run with shoulders back and head upright, not looking down, land with my feet under my center of mass--- but had NOT really worked to put into practice.   He didn't call it Pose Running, but that is similar to what he was explaining to me.  He also encouraged me to concentrate on forefoot or midfoot striking rather than heel striking.   

The very next day I tried running utilizing all of these techniques.  For the first time in over a month, I was able to run without pain.  Tweaking my form made all the difference.  I ran 1.5 miles that first day, FOREfoot striking with each step.  I was basically running on my toes, and it felt so unnatural. But my hip didn't hurt!  My feet, ankles, and calves hurt afterwards though!

I tried forefoot striking that week in short runs of 1 to 1.5 miles at a time.  It was painful and awkward, and I knew I was going to injure myself in other ways if I continued.  

I did some research and read that midfoot striking with a soft heel strike is recommended for those with IT Band and knee or hip issues.  Two recommendations were made:  get some shoes that "encourage" midfoot strike, such as Newtons or other minimal shoes and run with a metronome between 170 and 180 steps per minute.

I did both and I found my stride again!


I absolutely loved my Newton Fates and my metronome app from the very first run.  My form was no longer awkward.  I could  midfoot strike easily and land under my center of gravity.  The turnover was quick (I started at 178), so there was no overstriding.  I focused on maintaining a straight line between my shoulders and pelvis.

Relearning to run and using different muscles is exhausting, honestly!  Many muscles that should have been driving my run have been asleep at the wheel.  I am definitely quad dominant with weak gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus from all of my "flat-butt syndrome"/posterior pelvic tilt running.  Those underused muscles tire out quickly.  I have to be vigilant the entire run lest I fall back into old habits.  

I know form has always been an issue with me, but I was in denial. I believe when I stopped having two dedicated strength training days, these muscle imbalances became much more pronounced.  I strength train almost every day now.  I am up to running up to 3.5 miles with this new form (with only very mild hip soreness afterwards and the next day).  I'm healing. 

The lesson I've learned here is to not take running for granted.  I missed it those five weeks when I could not run without pain.  It's not just important to run, but to do all of those auxiliary things like form drills and lunges and hip work.  As an almost forty-five year old runner, I have to find a type of running that is sustainable for the long haul.  For me, that may not be running 5 marathons per year or 3 ultramarathons in six months.  

For now, I'd rather run 3.5 miles with proper form than 30 with my old form.  I should have done this years ago.  YEARS.  




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One More Last Time: Carmel Marathon Race Report

The Carmel Marathon was my 15th marathon, and I told myself it would be my last for a while.  I thought I had fallen out of love with road marathons, but this past weekend, I realized I was wrong.

There is still something special about pinning on a bib among 3,000 like-minded individuals.  

There is still something special about listening reverently to the national anthem right before a race starts.  

There is still something special about not knowing what the day will bring.  

There is still something special about pushing your body to and beyond THE WALL, and the strength you try to find through the struggle.  

There is still something special about the relief you feel when you get to mile 24, knowing the struggle is almost over.  

There is still something special about crossing that finish line and having a medal placed around your neck.  

There is still something special about the running community and spending time and miles with new friends and old.

In a nutshell: 
It was HOT.  It was long.  It was my third slowest road marathon-- not as slow as my first Country Music Marathon, nor as slow as my implosion at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic last October, but slower than the Flying Monkey when I sprained my ankle at mile 10.  I suffered.  I struggled.  But somehow I found the joy in it.  I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.  

The road trip:
The road trip with Harriet and Cheryl and Cheryl's daughter began on Friday morning.  We had a smooth trip overall until we hit Indianapolis traffic that afternoon.

We made it to the expo, and as soon as I walked in, I heard, "Is that Donna?"  It was my ultramarathoner friend Diane Taylor.  We have run several of the same races over the past couple of years.  I hadn't talked to since last summer's Jackal Trail Marathon.  She's a veteran of four Bostons and over 200 marathons and ultras, including multiple 500K races!

The expo was very well organized and had lots of great vendors and samples.  I love expos! We got our race packets, shopped a little, and headed to dinner (with Diane) at McAlister's Deli.  After eating and talking running for a long time, we knew we'd better head to the hotel to get settled in.  I had a 5:00 a.m. alarm planned, which would feel like 4:00 a.m. with the time change.

Just as I was laying down, I had two chills in succession.  That didn't bode well. I was immediately freezing but couldn't remember where the thermostat was to turn it up.  (#fail) I spent the entire night alternating chills and sweating. (Thank you, MENOPAUSE.  You suck!)  I slept approximately 12 minutes.

Harriet and I got up and got ready.  I had to take my tradional pre-race mirror selfie.


We met up in the lobby to caravan to the race.

Parking was quick and easy, and port-o-potties were plentiful--this is one well-done race!

Harriet and I decided to start off with the 4:40 pacer, so we lined up with her and chatted a bit.  She was a PE teacher from Pennsylvania.  We thought starting with her would help us to not start faster than a 10:40 pace, BUT she took off like a flash at the start at about a 10:15.  I guess she was banking time.  We let her go almost immediately, and a few steps into the race, someone grabbed both my shoulders from behind.  It was my friend Bill!!!

I was SO EXCITED to see him and gave him a big hug.  I met Bill during a marathon in February of 2014. We chatted some, and then I saw him two weeks later at another race.  Then two weeks after that, I ran into him at yet another race.  He is quite possibly the NICEST RUNNER EVER. We became fast friends. Then last December, while running on a treadmill at the gym, his heart stopped. Not a heart attack, heart failure.  Thankfully, he survived (God decided he had more work for Bill to do!), and he has begun fighting his way back onto the race circuit.  I was hoping to run into him. It made my day!

The race:
The race course was fabulous.  Carmel must be a great place for active people to live!  There are bike paths and parks and greenways and nice sidewalks everywhere.  We ran on them all, as well as through some very nice residential neighborhoods  For once, I didn't mind pounding the pavement.  On foot is a GREAT way to see a  new city!  It was flat, flat, flat, too!  We were blessed with lots of shade during the first 13 miles, but the last 13 were full sun.

Harriet and I ran together for much of the race.  We hammed it up pretty crazily for the photographers.  Those pictures aren't available yet, but they should be interesting.  We decided to do double gun hands for a change of pace.  :- )   I'll post when I get them.  Oh yeah, pictures at the Carmel Marathon are FREE to runners!

After what seemed like a very long half-marathon, we crossed the 13.1 mat.  Fatigue was creeping in for us, and we were slowing down. We were far behind the 4:40 pacer, and we were running just behind the 4:55 pacer for a while.  In a funny twist, the 4:55 pacer turned out to live in our hometown.  She just moved here and has been wanting to meet some running folks. She met two that day.  :-)    We were struggling to hang with her though.  It just wasn't our day.  At this point or maybe even earlier, we decided we really didn't care about time.  We just wanted to finish the race fairly pleasantly.

My running buddy Harriet and I parted ways for about miles 16-23, but got back together at mile 24.  Those last miles were painful for us both due to blisters.  My Ininji toe sock had been bunched up around my pinky toe the entire race, and the toe was totally encased in a blister.  Then the blister had folded over onto itself on the bottom of the toe.  With each step, fluid was pushed from the bottom of the blister to the area just under the cuticle.  I was sure my toenail was being ripped off with every step, especially in miles 25-26.2.  Stab, stab, stab with every step.    It was also HOT.  It was 76 degrees when I checked my phone at mile 19 and 79 degrees when we finished.  We were not accustomed to that! We both hung in there, though, and we crossed the mat with identical times of 5:10:14.  

We did something I'd never done before in the finish line chute.  We both ripped our shoes OFF and walked around in our socks for the next hour and a half.  Our feet were NOT going back in those shoes.  We got a couple of bags of chips and found a soft place on the grass to watch the end of the race.


We got to see Cheryl cross the finish line of her first marathon. As it turned out, after Diane finished, she went back out for Cheryl and escorted her in.  Runners are good people.  We chatted up several folks from the Nolensville Running Club near Nashville as we were hanging around post-race. They'd brought 70 runners to the race!  I so appreciate and enjoy the community of runners.  

We spent that night with Harriet's family, and I was home in time to catch the 2nd half of my church's Sunday morning service!

I'm very thankful to have gone on this journey.

Now I'm considering planning "one more last time" marathon.  


Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Is What It Is: Marathon Training Is Almost Done!

I have a marathon in three weeks!

Do I feel ready?  I'm glad you asked.  No, I do not.  But it is what it is.

Road marathons are not my cup of tea anymore, it seems.  I have felt so beaten up after my three 16.5 milers and my 18 miler.  Pavement + my body = yuck. (Spoken like a true trail runner!)

This was not always the case. Not so long ago, I was running 2 or 3 road marathons a year.  I suppose my body has gotten spoiled on trails.  Pounding pavement isn't as fun as it once was.

You know what I like?  I like a good, hard 10-miler on pavement.  Or even the occasional 13.1 mile race or training run.  But 10 miles feels like the maximum I can run comfortably on pavement these days.

The IT Band is doing great though.  Since the cortisone shot, it doesn't hurt at all.  I wish I hadn't waited a year to get it!

For the upcoming marathon, my first since October (in which I fell completely apart), I have done one 14-miler (trail), one 15-miler, three 16.5-milers, one 17-miler (trail), and one 18-miler.  I have struggled with several of the runs; however, the 17 and 18 went pretty well.  Today, my legs felt tired, and I'm sure I underfueled for the distance.  It was an ok run, but I slowed significantly in the later miles.  Two weeks ago, I held it together pretty well through the end of my 18.  FYI-- I don't believe in 20-milers anymore.  At my particular pace, an 18-miler takes around 3:20 or so, and after that, there can be diminishing returns.  Many articles support the 3-hour MAX long run.

Either way, I'm DONE.  I consider taper starting THIS MOMENT.  Next weekend, I am running the Oak Barrel Half Marathon with my husband.  I'm going to run it easy, close to goal marathon pace.  I'd love to run the marathon around a 10:45 pace, so I'll probably run the half around 10:15-10:30.  No stress.  Last year, I think we finished in 2:17.  He'll most likely PR.  I told him he could leave me behind since I want to run easy.  :-)  

The following week, I'm only running 7 or 8 miles as my long run, so that I can start the Carmel Marathon on rested legs.   Rested legs sounds nice.  I don't think I have a PR in me right now.  Maybe I'll just be content with that 4:36 marathon time from a few years ago.

Training just didn't quite come together as I'd hoped.  I'd love to have had a few long runs that I finished STRONG.  That didn't happen, but it'll be ok.  Hopefully, I can at least come in under 5:00!

A goal:  4:39  best case scenario-- unlikely (10:38 pace)  Maybe the MAGIC of race day?
B goal:  4:44   (10:49 average per mile)
C goal:  under 5 hours  (11:24 pace)   Should be managable!
D goal:  just to finish and not hate running by the end.




Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Chase on the Trace: Chickasaw Trace Trail 15K Race Report

I ran a fun race in Columbia, TN this morning.  The Columbia Cycling Club put on a trail race at the Chickasaw Trace Park on a 9-mile mountain bike trail.  Just after the trail run, they held a 9-mile mountain bike race on the same trail.  This race was a BARGAIN!  Only $28!  That is rare, my friends.

My alarm went off at the lovely hour of 4:25 a.m., and I met up with my friend Andrea at 5:30 a.m. to hit the road.  We had a smooth trip about 1 hour and 40 minutes south.  

The park was pretty, and check in went smoothly.  We got our bibs (no chip timing) and shirts and went back to the car for a few minutes.   The shirt is nice.  There is something about a hill on there???  Wait, there are hills?  :-)

We discussed our strategy for the day.  There was some confusion about what pace we must maintain on the trail to avoid the sweeper.  Our race was to start at 8:00 a.m.  Apparently, since the bike race started at 10:30, the cut off was somewhere less than 2:30.  We were confident we could finish under 2:30, but we didn't know if the cut off was actually 2:15 or even 2 hours.  We probably could have asked an organizer.  We just knew the event page specified NO WALKERS and that all runners must be off the course before 10:30.  

This was a small event, and looking around before the start, we noticed most of the field looked fit.  Very fit.  I saw at least three Ironman hats and shirts and probably less than 100 runners.  There were many more men than women.  We knew we definitely didn't want to be last!  I ran an 18-miler last weekend, and I was afraid fatigue would slow me down.  We knew there would be at least one biggish hill (according to the shirt).  I had found this elevation profile online a few days earlier.  It doesn't show the full 9 miles, but some of them.

Andrea and I take a VERY laid back approach to trail running generally.  We just relax and enjoy nature and take pictures and chat.  It is very relaxing.  Not today. 

Today, we were all business once the horn sounded.  We ran scared.  We rarely clock 11-minute miles on technical trails, but today we clocked the first three miles in the 11's.  We did notice early on that our frequent trail runs gave us an advantage on the muddy and steep uphills and downhills.  We weren't afraid of them, while many (new trail runners maybe?) would come to a full stop to try to navigate the least-muddy path and hike very carefully down.  We passed a few people in the first few miles on muddy slopes.  We've learned that sometimes, you just have to run right through the mud, and it's actually pretty fun!  I know I used to do the same thing.  I guess after you fall on trails a few times, the thought of it is less daunting!

The trails were just starting to green up--we've had a LONG winter here in Tennessee.  Pictures from past races show more spring foilage than we had today.  These are two I borrowed from a blog called Ravine-ravings courtesy of Google Images.  I didn't want to pause long enough to take any!
  
This was a neat area where we ran through bamboo.
We were able to estimate how many people were behind us at any given time due to many, many switchbacks.  At one time, we thought there were only three behind us, but there were several others farther back on the trail.  But thinking we were 3rd from last??  That kept us running, actually racing, rather than relaxing.  (They do call it a "race," I suppose.)  I was struggling though.  My breathing and heart rate were higher than normal for the pace I was running.  My legs definitely had some residual fatigue in them.  The good part was we kept picking off one runner at a time.  It felt like we were chasing them down. We'd see one up ahead and reel her in.  By mile five or six, we could breathe a little sigh of relief knowing there were 6-8 behind us at least! (There were many more than that, we just couldn't see them!) We ran a steady, but pushing, pace.  We were chasing runners and the sweeper (on a mountain bike) was chasing all of us!  

The trail was overall very runnable.  It was rocky in places, very muddy, and somewhat narrow in places where it went through a grassy field (to fit mountain bike tires better than human size 10.5's)

We still didn't know the time cut off, but we estimated we'd finish the 9-mile trail race around 2:00-2:05 if the "big hill" wasn't too bad.  There were many inclines and declines throughout, but The Dump Hill was the one pictured on the shirt.  We found it in mile 6 or 7.  It was a tough climb. It was a lung and leg burner, but not all that long or all that steep, AND there was only ONE of it, so that helped.  (Tick Ridge had about 6-8 of those!)   We train regularly at two local trails that have a similar hill to this one and on a long road hill, so it didn't seem all that bad.

Around mile 8, I picked up the pace to try to finish under two hours.  My breathing was ragged (it had strangely been all day-- I think it's called "racing"), but I pushed with what little I had on those miles.  I'm not a fast road or trail runner.  Slow and steady is actually my favorite pace.  

Much of the last .25 was uphill in the grass heading back to the start.  That was tough.  I felt a little nauseated. It had gotten really warm (40 at the start, 62 at the finish), and I was ready to be done!  I crossed the line in 1:56, according to my Garmin, about a 12:56 pace.  I was 7th  in the 40-49 year old age group out of 19.  We had the biggest female age group by far!  Other female age groups only had 2-5 runners.  The overall winning female (30-39) ran a 9:00 minute pace for comparison!  She killed it, and I think it was her first trail race.  

Sooo...... Andrea and I finished.  We weren't last (by a long shot!).  We made the cut off. We got really muddy.  We had an adventure.   Road trip 5:30 a.m. adventures are the best.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Name is Donna and I'm a Running Addict

For about a year, my right IT band has been bothering me after long runs.  It actually started on January 1, 2014.

There is a bursa (fluid-filled sac) at Gerdy's Tubercle (the spot where the IT band inserts on the outside of the knee) that cushions the IT band as it moves back and forth over the lateral condoyle (the bony protrusion on the outside of the knee) during running. 

My bursa had gotten inflamed and angry and swollen (bursitis). That caused my IT band to have a harder time sliding across it, leading to pain and swelling at the insertion-- the formal name is IT band friction syndrome.  It caused a burning pain after long runs and sometimes a stabbing pain during long runs.

I saw a doctor about it last April, and he just told me to reduce mileage, run on soft surfaces, take high doses of anti-inflammatory, and to go to physical therapy because IT band issues often come from weakness in the hip or glute on the opposite side.  I did all those things, including running trails almost exclusively for 7 or 8 months, and it did get a bit better for a while. I also foam rolled, had deep tissue massages, and switched to different shoes.  While it improved, it never fully went away.  The area around Gerdy's was just less swollen and sore some of the time.  

Lately, it had gotten worse.  I've been training on asphalt primarily for an upcoming road marathon.  My long runs have climbed to 16 miles.  The combination left that bursa angry and swollen again.  I'll be honest.  I was starting to feel defeated.  

You runners know what I'm talking about.  Fighting with an injury for a year+ is not fun. In the grand scheme of life, no, it's not terrible, but when you love something and it gives you great pleasure, it is difficult to have it become rather miserable. 

So, I sought a second opinion.  Finally.  A dear friend recommended an orthopedic doc, and I saw him on Wednesday.  I told him all of this, and he said a cortisone shot into the bursa could dry up all that extra "goo" (his word, not mine!) in there.  The problem was the swollen bursa, not the IT band itself.  He understood I had done all the "right things" already, but this stubborn bursitis wouldn't budge.  I had done my research beforehand, so I knew this was probably my next and best option based on my Internet self-diagnosis. :-) 

This new doc is a doctor who UNDERSTANDS runners. He asked me about my goals, in addition to my history.  He "gets it."  He told me that treating runners is akin to treating drug addicts.  He could tell the runner to stop, but he knows the runner won't. Can't. It's more than a hobby.  It's more than exercise.  It's a way of life for us.  It's definitely an addiction.  


He left the room to get the shot. I had been told how much it would hurt, but the pain still caught me a bit off guard. The needle was large, and the place he inserted it was already very sore.  Three times in my life, I've had a similar sensation---when I had the epidural for my children's births while having back labor.  There is such a strange feeling when a needle is inserted into a space it clearly does not belong!!  A shot in the glute or arm is no big deal for me.  You can take my blood all day long, and I hardly notice.  But insert a needle.... in my SORE KNEE??? I almost came off the table.  I cringed and yelled (something... not sure what!) and unintentionally jerked my knee a bit. He wiggled it around some while in there "to break up the goo." It left a small hole and a quarter-sized bruise.

I admit, afterwards, I felt a bit dirty. Good grief.  Am I that much of an addict?  Do I insist upon running at all costs???   Is this wise?  Should I just run short distances, maybe become a casual "jogger"?  Is too much of a good thing a bad thing?   I'll acknowledge that I have a bit of an addictive personality.  I've been somewhat of a Type A Overachiever most of my life.  When I found running at age 36, it was as if I was discovering a whole new world and a whole new side of myself.  It was love.  Passion.  

I'm a driven runner.  I set goals. I'm always pushing to run farther or faster.  I probably make it harder than it has to be.  I love sharing this passion with others through my coaching.  But am I addicted?

Well, 8/10 would suggest YES.  Can someone buy me this mug?  I'll fill in the name later.

Is this a bad thing?  I could be addicted to meth or crack or or alcohol or porn or sex.  I think I chose pretty well.   

I'm kidding.  

Really.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It Was a Good Day to Be a Billy Goat: Tick Ridge Trek 25K Race Report

I ran the Tick Ridge Trek trail 25K last weekend in Elkton, Tennessee.  I didn't really have any expectations going in. I was just doing the race for fun, and the course looked pretty in the pictures from last year.  I needed a long run of 16 miles for my preparation for the Carmel Marathon in April, so I was pretty laid back about the whole thing.

A group of us left Clarksville at 4:46 a.m. to head south to Elkton.  That meant a 3:30 a.m. wake up for me, but I felt ok once I woke up and drank two cups of coffee.  We were looking sharp in our Middle TN Trail Runners shirts.

We arrived at the race site--a private farm, and it was several degrees colder than expected!  I was glad I had overdressed slightly and brought a throw-away jacket. 

The race began, and I took off at a moderate pace.  I hadn't planned to run aggressively, so I held back in the beginning.   

Within the first two miles, however, I realized Tick Ridge was not going to be the laid-back, moderately easy run I had expected!   The first climb was LONG and hard and kept going and going. 

I was only in mile two and my quads were burning!  I remember thinking, "Uh oh.  Maybe it's only the first two miles that are this tough."  Around the end of mile 2, I met up with friends briefly.  



They went their way on the 10K course about 2.5 miles in, and I ran the rest of the race alone, just briefly conversing with people occasionally.  

Then the second big climb came at mile 4.5.  I have truly NEVER seen anything like this hill in terms of steepness.  I've run many trail marathons and half marathons and even a 50K, but this hill was insane!  Power hiking it, I had to actually stop to BREATHE half way up.  My legs and lungs were on fire.  All around me, others were stopping, too.  

Up. Down. Up again.  The downs were better than the ups, but still really difficult.  One thing I was happy about though-- on every power hike uphill, I was able to catch and pass those around me.  I may not run fast, but I can hike like a billy goat!  (My trail name is actually Billy Goat.)

The race really had outstanding, ever-changing scenery. We went through fields and forests, over ridges, around ponds,and across streams.  I would say maybe 30-40% was technical.   I love this view from the top of one of the ridges (courtesy of my friend Cheryl):  

After that mile 4.5 hill, I got serious about the race.  I was still in shock that it was so different than I expected.  This needed to happen:  

I put my head down and I just ran.  When I couldn't run, I hiked as hard and as fast as I could.  I took chances on downhills (not my strength), I hurried through aid stations, and I kept moving at all costs.  My legs were TIRED, but I'd tell them to keep running.  I allowed myself to hike the steepest hills, but I ran the smaller ones.  I remember saying to myself, "Just run easy in energy-saver mode" to keep myself running when I wanted to hike.  After mile 10 (which absolutely felt like mile 20), I knew I had an hour or more left in the race. I began to really focus on just running the mile I was in.  I turned on my music, and it was a big help.  Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite" was the first song that   came on, and at that point, I felt like I'd been rocking and rolling all night!  Later, in mile 15, "Running on Empty" came on.  I truly was!  

Though the race was unexpectedly harder than anticipated, I just did what needed to be done, and I daresay I enjoyed it!  Sometime in mile 11 or 12, I took time to reflect on why it is that I choose to do hard things.  What is it in me that feels the need to push myself to my physical limits?  I thought about how I had CHOSEN to be there--to run through deep mud and hop across at least five streams, to trip my way down hills and fight my way up ridiculously steep leg and lung burning ones.  My choice. My way of testing myself.  My way of seeing what I'm made of.  My way of connecting with nature and my friends.  Then I took time to pray for those who are going through hard things they didn't choose.

I was still smiling when I nearly ran over this photographer at mile 13.  He was kneeling beside the narrow trail on a downhill.  


Those last miles were tough, but I stayed determined and in good spirits.  The hill at mile 13 was the only other time I had to interrupt my hike to rest for 3 or 4 seconds half way up the hill. I was ready to be finished, so I kept pushing. I crossed the finish line right as my Garmin beeped for 16 miles.   3 hours and 36 minutes.  

I almost cried at the finish.   Not because it was hard.  Because I was proud.  

It is definitely the toughest race course I've completed.  The Flying Monkey Marathon is the only one that comes to mind in an even close comparison, and I really think this was more difficult.  I'm so glad I did it!  I'll be a tougher runner for it.  :-)  

Fuel:  Water, 2 Huma Chia gels (mango and apple cinnamon), and Tailwind Raspberry Buzz.  Oh, and a few sips of Coke at an aid station with a handful of potato chips.    

Friday, January 30, 2015

Holy Hills and Loose Dogs Plus a Bull or Two: Encounters on the Long Run

Last weekend, I needed 15 miles on my long run.  The training plan called for it.  I'd run 13.1 and 14 the two weeks prior.  It was TIME.  For me, 15 miles is a turning point in training.  It is the turn into serious running territory.  A 15-mile run can go a lot of ways.  Not all of them are good!

It turned into a frustrating run of slow and snow and cold, and I pulled the plug at 11.5 miles.  This week, I knew I HAD to get it in.

I'm also coaching 17 people for a spring half marathon.  It's a sweet gig, and I enjoy helping these runners on their journey to 13.1.  Last weekend was actually their first group run of five miles, and thank goodness no one fell on the snowy, slippery greenway.  This weekend, they are running six hilly miles in my favorite running neighborhood.  I knew it would be tough to run six with them and have a break to coach them in stretching, etc, and then have to continue for nine more on my own, so I found a friend who wanted to do a long run today while the kids were at school.

It got interesting when my littlest also told me last night that she has awards day at 12 at school. That gave me a fairly small window to get in 15 miles and get presentable and back to school!

I dropped her off at school the minute it opened and rushed back home to head out.  I had to run at least 3 miles before my friend arrived because she didn't need a run quite as long as mine.  I wound up with a relaxed 3.5 miles in my neighborhood.  Well, relaxed might be the wrong word. There is one dog in my neighborhood that scares me--a large, muscular German Shepherd with an underground electric fence, who never lets me pass without barking at me loudly (and angrily?).  I had to pass her twice.  Shiver.  I always worry that her electric shock collar will have a dead battery....

I realized within the first three miles that my legs were still a bit tired from 5 miles of speedwork on Tuesday and a 7-mile trail run on Wednesday.

My friend arrived, and we headed out.  We passed scary dog again, and she is much less scary with a buddy.  We headed for some country roads near my house.  Country roads = hills and loose dogs, apparently.  We were running happily along when a dog ran out at us. This one didn't stop at the edge of the yard like the one with the invisible fence.  He came all the way into the road and had no collar.  I just instinctively said, "No! Go home!"  And he stopped.  He crouched down and looked like he felt guilty.  We kept moving, but I picked up a large stick to carry.  We went down a side road and knew we'd have to face him again.

We ran on a pretty country road for a while, up and down big hills.  At another house, two dogs were VERY excited to see us.  They came out as a pair, running as fast as they could toward us.  We froze, but their whole bodies were pretty much wagging.  They crossed the road to us, but they just wanted to say hi.  I petted them for a minute, and they were happy.

We continued.  We ran and ran and ran.  Then we checked our mileage.  Five miles???  We've only been five miles?  Whaaaaat?

You know those runs that seem endless?  Turns out my friend was also pretty tired, and we were both struggling a bit.  We walked the big hills and just kept making forward progress.  We did an out and back, so we got to stop and pet the friendly dogs again (well, just me) and deal with the less-friendly loose dog (he was totally crouched in a ditch waiting for us).   We took a different country road for a mile or so and saw two huge bulls looking at us as we ran toward them.  Then we noticed the gate was open to their pen. Wide open.  There was a grate at the bottom of that apparently animals don't like to walk across though, but that was the only thing between us and them.   I freaked out a little and turned back.  I don't really have experience with bulls and grates.  I just know I don't want a bull chasing me.  Country running has its advantages and disadvantages. :-)

We ran back toward my house as best we could.... relentless forward progress.  We got quiet. I turned on my music.  We walked the big hills and the small ones, too.  We finally got back to the house.  I was short two miles, but I had about 22 minutes before I HAD to get into the shower.  Onto the treadmill I climbed.  I finished mile 15 at 11:02 a.m., grabbed a bite to eat, jumped into the shower, and sat down at awards day with 6 minutes to spare.

It was just one of those runs.  My forearm is sore from carrying the big stick, too.  I wonder if it would have worked on the bulls?    :-)

My baby got all A's and B's at the awards day, so I signed her out early from school to take her for some sushi and ice cream!







Monday, January 19, 2015

A Belated New Year's Post: Building a Sturdy Runner

I've been letting my new year's running resolution simmer.  Marinate.  Sink in.  It stemmed from a church service early in the new year.  I paraphrased from a general life application to a more specific running application:



So, this year, I will build a sturdy runner-- one who can run 5K's hard and 50K's gently, one who is equally at home on roads and trails, one who conquers hills and glides across flats, one who is consistent in training and avoids burnout.

I will accomplish this by strength training, training smart, and listening to my body.  The ultimate goal is to run for the rest of my life.  Sturdy.  Strong.  Motivated.  Happy.

I'm carefully building a base.  I just had my one-year anniversary with IT band friction syndrome in my right knee.  It doesn't go away--it flares and it improves in an annoying cycle.  My left knee is a bit better as long as I don't do any lunges.

It's only January.  I've got lots of time.

It's a PROCESS that will take patience.




Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running--The Year in Review

It's time for my annual running year in review.  I'm keeping a record of my running life in this blog for when I'm old and can't remember.  It's like my journal.

2014 Running Goals WERE--
1.  To run in new races and places.  (Done and Done!  Chuckanut Mountain in Washington State was the most awesome one.)
2.  To run happy and healthy. (Mostly.)
3.  To tackle some long distances. (Yep.  26.2 X 4 plus two ultras--a 41-miler and a trail 50K.) 
4.  To use running for stress relief and renewal.  (For the most part.)
5.  To enjoy each and every race, even when it's hard, even when I'm slow and to have gratitude for running.  (Not at the Southern TN Power Classic marathon.  Misery after mile 11. Personal worst!)

Overall, I'd say this was a more successful year than 2013, at least as far as my attitude toward running as I come to the close of the year.  I'm definitely running slower, but I've run happier.


The races:

January--No races!  

February-- Dry Creek Marathon.  This was a really fun race with my friend Andrea in a hunting preserve.  It was the most beautiful February day--blue skies and 65 degrees.  The course was a little hillier than expected, but I enjoyed running the first half with Andrea and battling it out on my own in the second half.  One of two trail/unpaved marathons this year.

March--  LBL 23K Trail Race.  This was definitely an adventure.  Grand Rivers, KY had received a 7-inch snowfall earlier that week that just wouldn't budge.   I ran on hard packed snow, waded through slush, and skated on icy pavement.  I was lucky to only fall over once.  The whole time, I focused on being careful and the novelty of running on snow for the first time.  My feet were numb by mile 10 or 11!   I finished this race much stronger than the year before.

Two weeks later--- Greenway Marathon.  This was another hilly race.  I ran a little faster than planned in the first half and paid the price in the second half.  It was in this race that I realized the truth of marathons---once you get to mile 20, you know you are going to be ok.  I struggled in 14-20, but passing that mile 20 marker let me know I'd survive.  My IT Band was not my friend that day.  After this race, I took some time off to rest/recover the IT Band.  One of two road/pavement marathons this year.

April--  Oak Barrel Half Marathon.  I ran this with my husband.  I tried to pace him conservatively, but really 2:16 was about all I had that day.  He had a great race and  could have run faster.  My legs were tired from the above races, as all of these were spaced about two weeks apart.

May-- Viola Valley Half Marathon.  This was another hilly (I see a theme here!) race in the countryside near Manchester, TN.   I ran a total of 3 races within an hour of Manchester (where my inlaws live) this year.   I had an ok race.  I walked on some of the hills.  I can't say I ran strong, but I didn't run terribly, either.

Then my SUMMER OF RUNNING, the best part of my year! 

June-- Run Under the Stars.  Despite some blister issues, I got a personal long of 41 miles!   I had the BEST miles between 30 and 40.   I truly felt like an ultramarathoner. 

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon.  My 2nd of two trail marathons.  I PR'd by 26 minutes over my time the year before.  I paced smart and finished strong.  It was HOT, and I got dizzy/woozy the last 2 or 3 miles.  The 2.5 hour drive home was LONG after that.

July-- Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon.  My destination race of the year!!!   It was a gorgeous course spent with my close friend Rebecca and high school classmate Stacey.   Our time was slow, but we stopped for pictures often and took our time.  This was my first time to climb a mountain!  It made me realize I want to climb more mountains in my lifetime.  

August-- Wild Thang 9-mile trail run.  The heat got to me.  I felt dizzy and nauseous and my legs didn't work too well.  The one blight on an otherwise great summer!   It fell in the middle of a high mileage month.  I could tell.  August 2014 was my highest mileage month ever.

September-- Stanky Creek Trail 50K.  Another highlight of my year.  I LOVED this race.  I tapered well the first part of September.  This race fell the day after my 44th birthday.  I think I enjoyed every single step, every creek crossing, climbing every muddy embankment!   My first 50K trail race with a strong finish.  Good company on my trip to Memphis and perfect weather, too!

And things started going downhill......

October--  Southern TN Power Classic.  Worst. Race. Ever.  Just three weeks after Stanky Creek, my body was NOT ready for 26.2.  I was ok up until about mile 11 or 12.  Then my race went downhill.... and by that, I mean it continued to go UP and UP and UP more hills.  Every step was painful.  My muscles were tight and sore.  Running simply hurt.  Stomach upset, too. Ugh. Personal worst.  A nice gentleman I met at mile 21 really helped get me to the finish.   I felt like my body was breaking down. It was after this HORRIBLE race, I decided to let the Tunnel Hill 50 miler go.  It was the right decision.  I was very burned out at this point.  

Go Commando Half Marathon.  Two weeks after Power Classic.  I actually had a slow but steady race.  I ran every hill.  I was happy about that.  All of my trainees finished this tough course.  My finish time was 8 minutes slower than last year. Fatigue had compounded in my legs over the last few months-that much was evident.  I knew my body was telling me to back off a bit.  I was relieved to be done with long races for the year.

Halloween Hunt 5- Miler.  I ran this on the week after Go Commando with my husband.  We dressed as "early morning trail runners" (covered in spider webs).  My legs had NADA that day.  I struggled.  I had a few weeks of rest after this one.  I ran just a few miles per week.

November--Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I ran a strong five-mile race!  :-)  I enjoyed it until the last mile and the hills at the end.  My time was slower than I expected, but I hadn't run 10K pace pretty much all year!

Turkey Trot 5K.  I had a GREAT race.  27:16.  How I ran just 17 seconds off my PR, I don't know.  Lucas pacing me the first two miles might have helped.  I maintained pace alone that last mile though!   

December-- No races!

Those are my 15 official races for 2014.  I left out two "unofficial" races I did with friends---both were half-marathons on trails.  One was at Rotary Park with Andrea and the other was at Beaman Park with Middle TN Trail Runners.  We almost got arrested for our unofficial "not a real race but with bibs and medals" and lacking park permission, but it was still a fun day.  

What a GREAT YEAR overall.  BLESSED!!!

One of the greatest blessings just kind of fell together in June.  Middle TN Trail Runners formed and quickly became my local trail running family.  My trail brothers and sisters have given me so much support and encouragement as we have run, tripped, laughed, and face planted together (and nearly got arrested....).  With this group, I went on my first night trail run, another highlight of the year.

I'm happy to have had my running community grow much larger this year with new friends from far and near!   I think when it comes down to it, running is really more about the people you meet and spend time with than anything.